Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ruger 77/357 accuracy with a 125gr .38 special cast hollow point.

As the weather here in Ohio continues to stay warm albeit wet I've been getting as much range time in with various kinds of tinkering and load development before we hit single digits and the wind makes things miserable out there. One particular load that has been surprisingly accurate so far is a .38 Special load sporting 4gr of red dot and a 125gr cast hollow point Mihec mold # 360640. This bullet has performed well on ground hogs with 4.2gr of red dot. When I went to load up a batch of these my Lee loadmaster powder charger was set for 4.0gr of red dot which is used in a 9mm load I use. So I thought for just plinking I would try 4.0gr in lieu of 4.2gr and see what happens. A broad range of charges have been tried in my GP-100 and it seems to like them all really. Below is a 5 shot group shot using the Weaver k2.5-1 scope shown previously. 

5 Shot group taken at 50 yards with the 77 Carbine. There is no aiming dot those 3 shots are just bunched that tight.

Ruger 77/357- 1012 FPS -277ft lbs
Ruger GP-100 5"- 800 FPS - 177 ft lbs
Ruger LCR- 700 FPS - 135 ft lbs

Not much lost (or gained?) going from the 5" barrel of the GP-100 to the 3" shorter barrel of the LCR. This load is very mild but may be considered a +P round depending on the manual you are referencing.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Intro to Group buy / custom bullet molds : or : The NOE 360432 a variation on the Lyman 358432 wadcutter a classic revival.

We are pretty spoiled in the handloading and bullet casting communities these days. Whatever we seem to dream up a need or want is made by some industrious individual or company. Need a faster way to make brass for your .300 blackout...bam somebody makes a jig to use in a tiny saw that cuts necks off of cases 10 times faster than a traditional tubing cutter takes to do 1. New ideas are always coming out as the market is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes however its not a new thing that gets us all excited but a revival of a previously "obsolete" product or design especially in cast boolits can get us really going. A number of  bullet mold companies are making limited runs of molds that were once a stocked item by RCBS, lyman, Hensly &  Gibbs or what have you. Once in awhile certain designs of cast bullets fall out of fashion for one reason or another after some time, new caliber comes along and bumps it off  or something along those lines. Some old timers post some pictures of these hard to find bullet molds, their product and the results on paper and game and us younger guys start drooling, then fight for the few that show up on ebay like it was for the honor of a woman.

There are a good number of companies out there willing to produce whatever bullet mold we seem to dream up within reason. So far the only two I have had the pleasure to obtain molds from have been N.O.E. Bullet molds  here in the US and MP- Molds  located in Europe. Both companies make molds that are flat out works of art. I will post a overview of one of MP (a.k.a.-mihec on the castboolits forum) molds sometime in the near future as time allows. 

One recent limited production run of a semi custom was commissioned by a fellow who wished to see a multi cavity mold made to readily produce a hollow pointed version of Lymans old 358432 type III wadcutter bullet.  A number of molds had to be spoken for before the tapped company (NOE) would order the tooling and begin production. After all it does cost money to produce these items and the company needs to recoup their tooling and set up costs so a modest minimum number of molds spoken for ahead of time is common. This route for a custom mold is cheaper and the product lasts longer than some other mold options that are out there for custom cut molds. The catch here is its a "group buy" format. 

The process is not fast, it takes a certain amount of patience to get through one of these "group buys" as they are called. But there is little to no regret when the mold you have been yearning for finally shows up at your door. As I continue to develop loads and mess with various bullet designs for .38 spl and .357 mag I must say that this particular hollow pointed version of a wadcutter caught my attention. I already have a 4 cavity mold that produces excellent solid bullets around 160gr in weight. These are solid thumpers and I have no doubt they would be just fine for deer or other small to midsize game at reasonable distances but when the opportunity to try a hollow point mold came about I jumped on. 

Specifically I was looking at getting a bullet mold that would offer greater versatility than the 4 banger I had that could only make solids. I sprung for the 2 cavity mold, it came with pins to make a deep hollow point, a shallow hollow point and a "flat" which is just the same as the solid that I already have. A short time after the mold arrived I had a good size sample lot cast up of the large hollow point version. Sized a lubricated with Carnuba red I loaded up test batches in .357 magnum and even more in .38 special. Pistol results were promising but more work will need to be done for the rifle loads as they were producing some erratic patterns.

The various pin sizes obviously alter the weight of the bullet, the large hollow point pins bring the bullet in at around 148-150 grains. Not a heavy weight really but when you look at how a type III wadcutter is designed so that a portion of the nose sits above the case mouth your load options change a little over just the standard 148gr wadcutters.

Mold as it ships in a padded envelope.
Add caption

The pins are retained by a tab on the bottom of the mold. Upon opening the mold the bullets fall right off the pins almost easier than a traditional mold.

Various pin options are available and if one is handy on lathe many more can be fabricated. 

Trying to keep the Ruger 77 .357 Mag carbine slim and simple.

Day after Christmas there isn't much to do but head to the range of course. I was surprised when I hefted my 77/357 carbine in one hand and a stock 77/357 in the other the weight difference between the two was exceedingly noticeable. Curiosity got the better of me and the postal scale came out when we returned home. The pistol caliber carbine is meant to be a light easily handled short range rifle not a full weight target rifle but with scope, sling, 4 magazines (unloaded) pull through, stock pouch/cheek rest and the rear adjustable sight I installed, my carbine came in at 7 lbs 13 oz. WOW my carbine got FAT since high school I thought. A good chunk of added weight is in the scope which I don't use too often (yet). The weaver K 2.5 power on factory Ruger rings is a fantastic little scope for this type of carbine and it is also adding 1lb of weight with rings to the gun. So that means on my gun everything minus the scope/rings I'm still at 6 lbs 5 oz. Its amazing how fast weight adds up, an oz here oz there the 4 unloaded mags don't weight much but they still add 1/2 lb to the package.

For comparison I weighed the stock 77/357 and it came in at spec sheet weight of the naked gun. A handy 5 lbs 8 oz. Its not surprising I know to understand that when you add stuff the weight goes up but you want to keep in mind if you intend to go afield with a rifle you've added a few accessories to you don't want to be surprised by how much weight she's gained since you really carried her last. Food for thought. The good thing is we're not as bad as the tacticool crowd here and adding a whole lot we don't need, 4 mags for this carbine may be a tad excessive by 1 or 2 perhaps but overall everything that was put on was put on for a reason and is used. Now if I can only figure out how to mount a on-board GPS night vision fish finder I'll be the coolest...

I'm not overly concerned with weight but its just an interesting thing to keep in mind. For comparison the Savage AXIS economy rifle with scope weighs 6 lbs 8oz and a standard stock AR-15 with no junk weights about 7 lbs 2 oz.

For those who are interested the scope is a vintage weaver K2.5-1 with micro-trac cross hairs. I have several such older low power K series weaver scopes and though I do not often employ the scopes they are great for applications such as this. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Williams and other peep sight aperture fix

Ok summer is over, back to posting relevant things here again. Here is a $.02 fix for a potentially bad day at the range or in the field. Any of us that have shot with a removable peep sight for any length of time have come across one that likes to work its way loose. The William's sight I installed on my Ruger 77/357 shown here kept working loose over the summer with all the plinking (and ground hog slaying) I was doing with this awesome carbine. Those engineers in the crowd may immediately say "loctite that sucker!" but I don't wish to do that as you may recall I can install a scope with the sight in place although the rear bell requires me to remove the aperture. A metal washer will beat up the aluminum sight base I think and there is very little clearance below the aperture drum and sight base. My solution is to simply stack 2 "O" rings on the drum of the aperture (or enough to give you some compression to act like a crush washer) this soft compression will keep the sight tight in the base and still allow for removal if the need should arise.

On the topic of removing the aperture, the former dovetailed rear sight on the 77 offers a good opportunity to take a dovetail blank drill and tap it for the same thread of the aperture (whatever that may be I do not know off the top of my head) and create a storage spot for a spare aperture, I believe skinner sights have this feature on some of their models and its a good idea so long as they stay put. Only thing is to make sure its not a snag point.

Apertures can work loose under lots of conditions.
 Prolonged range sessions or bumpy bush plane rides.

A number of "O" rings slipped over the aperture shank can keep from losing your zero or aperture entirely.

Much more secure and a worthwhile piece of mind.

Monday, July 13, 2015

More .38 special .357 Magnum wet pack tests

What was supposed to be another weekend full of shooting matches turned out to be half a weekend of shooting matches and half range work as the rain here in NW Ohio has made a lake out of the range we were going to be shooting 3 gun at so I helped at our home range with a work day. Made up another block of phone books to soak over night and thought I would test some more .38/357 bullets as well as .500 S&W and a 30/30 cast load.

First off all the .500 S&W factory loads kept veering off course inside the books and blowing out the sides. got one really good mushroom. Did not penetrate as much as you would think but expansion helped it slow way down and leave a large cavity in its wake.

Factory Hornady .500 S&W bullets (350gr starting I believe) 

Next I wanted to test some souped up .357 hallow point loads I've touched on in a previous post. 125gr cast HP bullet exiting a carbine bullet going ~2000fps. I didn't think the bullet would hold up but it did and retained all its weight! 

2000 fps loads flanking the slower .38 special load I covered in a previous post. Same bullet.

Top view of souped up .357 magnum 125gr load.
 Next I wanted to test a 173gr keith bullet coming out of my carbine at  a unknown velocity (greater than 1100fps though) the bullet performed very well, penetrating far into the stack of wet phone books, well over a foot and a half. The re-swagged jacketed bullet shown at right below did not deform at all surprisingly. This bullet was experimental and will not be used for anything other than plinking.

R:124 gr 9mm swagged to .357 fired into wetpack shows no deformation, C: 173gr keith fired into wet pack R: unfired Keith.

Last I wanted to see how my 30-30 loads with 34gr of Reloader 15 and a Lee cast flat nose 150gr bullet performed out of my newly rebuilt 94. at this point I had pulled the phone books apart to recover previous pistol shots so sucessive bullets wouldn't damage future specimens. I had about 20" of good phone books left and well....it wasn't enough, my 30-30 loads blitzed right through the whole stack as if it were butter. Sooo I will revisit that particular test next time I head to the range with wet pack and test more bullets. The more I learn about bullet performance and design the more I see how gimmicky some of these bullets being offered by the big companies really are. Dead is dead.....can't make anything more dead. And a good shot can do a lot with any bullet, a bad shot will just piss off an animal with a top of the line bullet if not placed correctly.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Experimental 9mm swagged to .38 special bullets

Anybody who has frequented the range for various matches or just practice more than 3 times a week starts to pick up a LOT of brass and sometimes "duds" or dropped live rounds. As a rule of thumb I never try duds in my guns as they could be bad reloads etc... But the bullets are still good. I have a good size box full of 9mm bullets I've pulled from range dropped  ammo and "duds". I don't really shoot 9mm a whole lot but I do have swage dies to make .357 diameter bullets for use in my .38 special/.357 mag. Just for grins I dropped some standard round nose 124gr fmj in the dies with a SWC  type nose punch. The noses don't form fully because of the jacket but I do get a interesting wadcutter with a nipple type projectile. They are purely just for plinking in my revolver as they do not feed in the bolt action. I could try seating the wadcutter part flush and that might work but like I said these are just cheap fun as I don't shoot FMJ bullets often. 

9mm projectiles swagged for use in .38 special, Center round is factory .38 Special round that I picked up at the range.

7/12 Update- Shot a few of these into wet pack and had zero deformation and a lot of penetration. Interesting performance considering its a "junk" bullet and seemed to perform better than a regular round nose.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Home made powder dippers :or: Lee dippers don't do half sizes

While working on a project I came across the "want" for a powder dipper that threw EXACTLY 4.2gr of Red Dot. I have a powder thrower (the lyman 55) that can throw whatever charge I so desire to surprising accuracy. However the application I have in mind will not allow for the use of a powder thrower. The next logical step is a lee dipper. I can't recall if I've mentioned it before but lee dippers are very handy to have however they do lack accuracy. Do not confuse accuracy with consistency here, Lee dippers will throw a repeatable charge until your hand falls off, however it may not be the charge that is listed in the chart/manual/book what have you. If we take a look at the lee dipper chart we see that the closest we can get to 4.2gr of red dot is using the 0.5cc dipper which is supposed to give us 3.5gr  the next dipper up is the 0.7cc which jumps us up to 5.0gr of red dot, way past the 4.2gr we wanted. Now if you have several dippers sets or duplicates of a lee dipper size you may be tempted to shorten it to get the volume and thus the weight you are after. No problem with that, just be sure to make a note of the charge it has been modified for on the handle so whoever gets the dipper next knows.

Back to the rainy day project at hand ,more like rainy month for us here in NW Ohio but I digress. With a few simple hand tools and a file (or Dremel or even better a belt sander) we can make our own precision powder dipper for only the cost of time. You've probably seen these charge dippers before made out of fired cases but I'm going to offer some insight into making these that you may have not considered before. First we want a thin tall case not a fat one like a 40 S&W but something like a 30 carbine is perfect. The reason is a tall skinny case can give you better accuracy with smaller volumes of powder. Think back to your chemistry lab days and how quickly a tall skinny graduated cylinder would fill up vs a flask. Our 30 carbine case can be filed to our exact needs where as a short fat case would give us consistency issues with smaller volumes. Plus it will be easier to dump the powder straight into our pistol cases (in this case...no pun intended .38 SP +P loads).

Shortened .30 carbine case, a .32ACP case might also work if you have those on hand.

Stripped copper wire and my legs.....

First I measure out 4.2gr of red dot, dump that into the case we will cut down. I mark on the side where I want to cut, making sure to leave myself a little length to shorten it up more if needed.  I used a Dremel tool to cut off the excess and then a sanding drum on my Dremel to shorten the case up in small increments (marking how much to remove each time) until I got exactly 4.2gr DIPPED from my powder mug. I deburr the case mouth like you would for a rifle case each time I shorten it as well. Next I dug around for scrap copper wire and stripped it. This we will use as our handle for our scoop. The 30 carbine is rimless so the extractor groove will work well to twist the wire into. After the scoop has been tested for accuracy we take a fine tip sharpie and write the charge it was made to throw on the side. A alternative is a steady hand with a electropencil which I ended up doing not wanting to risk the writing wiping off over time and not recalling what size I made it for.

Pro tip- In the back of the Lee load manual there is a table that you can multiply the number of grains by the known volume 1gr of said powder takes up. The resulting number is the volume of your powder charge in CC's . Lee also lists the case capacity in the load manual of each of the cases in CC's, this might save one some time and effort if you find a given straight wall pistol case may be closer than another option you were thinking about. Also keep in mine a long narrow measuring device can be more exacting than a short fat one, although a powder bridge may occur easily if you are using a powder that has course grains.
Handle installed and everything ready to go

Marking the new dipper is important for safety and sanity.

This little project is a component of another post I'm working, Lyman 310 dies and tongs. I recently got a set for .38/357 and am working on loading ammo with it this week and hopefully will have something posted on that experience before too long.

Here is another homemade dipper I came across in a lot of reloading stuff from an estate, looks like a large nail was soldered onto a very old balloon head .44 Special case. Made for 20gr of 4756 which is a powder I'm not familiar with.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

500 S&W / 38 special and 9mm Mihec mold wet pack tests with some 40 S&W thrown in for good measure

Summer range time has been lots of matches (6 or 7 so far?) and a few range work days (with additional range time afterwards). Been developing new loads for some new bullets/guns I've acquired. Enjoy the update as its nice outside and I don't want to be in front of this computer more than I have to be.

I've been shooting my 500 S&W for about a year now and finally got around to testing the bullet I've been casting for it on wet pack (soaked phone books or other such media). Running a load of 14.5gr of Unique under this bullet it leaves the muzzle around 1100fps. I've only been casting with the large HP pins in the mold but after this test I'm curious to see what the smaller pin will do as the bullet did a poor job of holding together, breaking apart at the bottom of the lube groove.

.502 Mihec mold with Large HP pin option

Next is a 125gr cast HP traveling in the mid to upper 900 fps range in a .38 Special case and we see in the following pictures it gave excellent performance!

Fired out of a .38 Special case, wonderful performance.

Side view of  125gr HP fired out of .38 Special

Next are two 180gr bullets fired out of a 40 S&W. One is a premium HP bullet the other is a very cheap plated bullet that shed its plating somewhere downrange or right out of the muzzle? not sure.


premium expanding bullets vs cheap "FMJ" plated job.

Last but not least is my new one and only 9mm mold (which means I need to return the 9mm molds I've been borrowing from my dad). This one is a 125gr mold with various HP pin options like the .38/357 bullet above. This one has a "penta" hp and it does cause the bullet to expand differently. Bullet was traveling around 1025fps. This bullet neutralized a ground hog with a head shot and penetraded almost the full length of its body. Nothing was left of the brain larger than a tic-tac.  I skinned her out but failed to find the pill as it went in regions I didn't feel like cutting into.

Excellent performance from a cast bullet!

Monday, June 1, 2015

More .38 special & .357 Carbine observations: Now with 5" Gp100 and .38 SC loads

As the weather has turned very nice for us here in NW Ohio I've been able to spend more time on the range. In between helping run matches and doing range work I hauled out a chronograph to try a 2nd test batch of hand-loads I cooked up over the winter and late spring.

I shot these loads over two sessions, the first session was mostly handgun work with some carbine thrown in, the second session was mostly carbine with a few out of the revolver for comparison in velocity only.

Toying with multiple bullet weights I'm trying to get an idea what the carbine and revolver like as a combination. The twist rate in the carbine is 1:16 with 1:18 in the 5" GP100 revolver, although it was easy to find the max bullet weight these twist rates would stabilize I was not able to find what minimums were with velocity and weight, something I would have to toy with myself to see how well it shoots in the end anyways. All my cast bullets are straight wheel weights and lubed with the superb Carnuba Red from lars lube . In this test session I was also able to test bullets from my newly arrived 360640 mold a 125-135gr adjustble mold with removable hallow point pins. I cast about 150 bullets with the large HP pins in place and loaded those up.

First off I tried the odd duckling out of the bunch, I had loaded up a small batch of .38 Short colt rounds using the 125gr 360640 HP bullet the day before hitting the range and wanted to see how they shot (and sounded since the other short colt loads I've tried have been louder than expected) I loaded these with 2.0gr of red dot. The only bad thing was that the chronograph didn't want to read ANY of these rounds out of the revolver? probably operator error there.

All testing in both sessions was performed at a mere 50 yards, the 2nd session I scoped the Carbine with a low power scope for giggle. On to the data, we'll go from short colt to special and then magnum data.

  • .38 Short Colt (NOT SPECIAL)- 125gr cast 360640 HP - 2.0gr Red Dot  (shows potential with decent group) 

              77/357- 706,721,743

The above load shows massive efficiency potential if proven in further accuracy testing if you ask me

  • .38 Special- 75gr cast wadcutter-3.0gr of Bullseye
          GP100 5"-604,649,672

The above caught my attention as these loads were all assembled at the same time and the fact the velocity kept going up is something that I need to test again. The light 75gr pill might not give enough resistance for super consistent ignition in such a large bore? However 2 of the shots were touching at 50 yards with the 3rd only a few inches away. However the entire group was about 18" under the bull which isn't surprising really looking at the velocity and figuring drop at 50 yards.
  • .38 Special -125gr cast 360640 HP- 4.0gr red dot 
           77/357- 1126,1074,1117
           Gp-100 5"- 903,888,872

Nothing really jumped out with the above load,  I'll have to compare this load with my staple 158gr lee SWC over 4.2gr of red dot as I seem to remember I was getting almost 1000fps out of that load in a 4" barreled smith I would have expected at least upper 900's out of a 5" barrel with 4.0gr of red dot and a lighter bullet but then again this is part of learning.

  • .38 Special -173gr Keith - 5gr of Unique 
            77/357-1097,1088, did not capture 3rd shot
            GP100 5"-919, 871,910

This load shows a lot of potential in both guns, a heavy 173gr bullet moving at moderate speeds seems to always be the answer, although not that much gain in the carbine over the revolver...fast powder does that I've learned. Accuracy was definitely noted with this load.

  • .38 Special- 148gr SPEER factory wadcutter- 2.7gr of Bullseye

This "target" load is a staple of many bullseye shooters it seems like and with loads going up to just above 3.0gr of Bullseye there is some velocity to be gained but there really isn't a need when just punching paper. This load is a good place to start when looking for accuracy performance out of a gun. This load shot well in the carbine in previous tests and achieved 750+fps as I stated in the previous "observations" post.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP-15.0gr of 2400
          77/357 1749,1862,1780
          GP100 5"-1139,1352, did not capture 3rd shot - Erratic velocities between 1 and 2?

The above was a mild .357 load, was just a starting point to move up from I may revisit this load again and move down from it to see what happens to group size.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 16.5gr of 2400 Win primers
          Gp100- 1303,1403

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 16.5gr of 2400 CCI primers


The above I shot in the rifle alternating primers between shots It seems like the CCI may be a little more consistent with 2400 in both the carbine and revolver. From here the primers looked good and I felt ok moving on to 17.0gr of 2400 which was still 2.5gr under "max" in one of my books.

  • .357 magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 17.0gr of 2400
           77/357-1978,1981,2008 (WOW)
           GP100-1403,1443 (no real flash compared to sim loads with jacketed bullets)

I was impressed when I saw the 2008 fps show up on the screen, though its of no real practical value its interesting to note that one can get into the upper 1900's with a pistol caliber carbine. Hitting the bullet energy calculator filling in 1990 for the velocity thats giving us just over 1100 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr Jacketed HP- 16.5gr of 2400
            77/357-1888,1888 with confirmed duplicate

The above seem VERY consistent in initial testing and its interesting to note here that the handgun velocity as well as rifle velocity was slightly lower with the jacketed bullet than with cast (lead is a natural lubricant...even if it sticks to barrels sometimes)

  • .357 Magnum 160gr Cast Wadcutter -12.0gr of 2400
           77/357-crap I forgot to write these down

This heavy wadcutter load showed potential in both carbine and revolver. I like the idea of a wadcutter as a hunting bullet

  • .357 Magnum 173gr Kieth SWC -12gr 2400
          GP100 5"- 1132,1142

  • .357 Magnum 173gr Kieth SWC- 12.5gr 2400
          GP100 5"-1142,1136,1077 

The 2nd load of .357 mag with the 173gr bullet and 2400 had no appreciable gain in velocity in the revolver although if fired in the carbine (didn't load enough ammo for that) it might have shown a little more velocity.

  • .357 Magnum 92Gr RN cast 14.0gr of 2400
           77/357-1727- ( I only fired one round over the chrono out of curiosity, solid round nose bullets don't excite me but I was curious what the little pill would do) 

  • .357 Magnum 148gr Speer wadcutter 5.5gr bullseye
           77/357-1321,1293 (Very accurate with following shots on target)
           GP100-1050,1083,1224 (erratic ?)

  • .357 Magnum 158gr Lee SWC 6.5gr unique
The above load with 6.5gr unique and the 158gr Lee SWC showed some promise to being a good load in both the revolver and the carbine. This 158gr bullet as I may have mentioned before is one of my favorite bullets for the .38/.357.

Some might be annoyed that I didn't go on about what was accurate and what wasn't but this is just a starting place for me to work from. I took further notes on accuracy but nothing was super stellar enough to be passed along, more so I thought the velocity readings were more interesting as from that we can calculate energy....something that we want to know if going afield.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

.38 Short Colt....again

Having shot up my small supply of 3.5gr red dot under the 92gr round nose bullet I loaded some more primed cases with 1 grain less...2.5gr of red dot. The results were the same it seemed in report at least, I think I'll start to move away from the light 92gr bullet as moving to a heavier bullet will give me less of a report. I have access to a noise dosimeter and may include that along with a chronograph in the next extensive testing day I have at the range. Just for kicks I'm curious how these loads compare with similarly loaded full length .38 Special loads as the load density (or amount of air space left in the case after bullet has been seated) is significantly lower. The 92gr round nose were what I had on hand really for initial testing and I feel comfortable moving to a heavier bullet (105gr Lee or heavier as previously mentioned) The short colt although loaded with a heavier bullet might be made to the same OAL as a .38 special loaded flush with a wadcutter, something I happened to notice that somebody else pointed out on another forum when researching this round.

The accuracy with these loads has been "ok" nothing stellar and nothing tested over 25 yards as the drop is significant past that distance, a quick guess on the ballistic calculator has it dropping over 36" at 100 yards if its clocking around 600 fps and a mere 24" if its getting 750 fps out of the muzzle.

Closing thought, check the chamber for leading build up just like you would with .38 special and check back for more info.

Monday, May 4, 2015

.38 Short colt range report

Note- If you're waiting for the book reviews I mentioned I would try and have up don't hold your breath the weather turned nice early this year and I've started a full time job so reading time has been curtailed. Right on with what we're here for.

I had a chance this weekend to try out some of the .38 Short colt loads I made up last week in my 77 Bolt action. First observation was not all my magazines wanted to actually load all 5 rounds, Something about the helical design of the magazine and the short stubby cases made the magazine jam after loading 3 rounds. However the magazine will pretty reliably load 3 rounds. The second observation was the short case has feeding issues if the bolt is not cycled smartly. The resulting jam is the bullet partially falls into the void in front of the next round in the magazine and catching on the rim. Easy to clear but annoying to say the least. When I shot the first magazine I was impressed with the odd noise these loads made, Not really a snap or pop like one is used to but more like a too large paper bag being popped nearby, doesn't really make an impressive pop but just kind of makes a noise as it bursts.  Not a clue what velocity was,although I think its safe to say this was a max load (3.5gr of red dot under a 92gr cast round nose) I'll try lighter loads of red dot and eventaully bullseye and see what accuracy is. At 50 yards I had 5 shot groups that were fist size easily. Just for fun I tried a few shots at 200 yards, the drop at that range is around 25 feet best I could tell.  I did not get a chance to try these out of a revolver of any sort much to my regret as I'm curious what the report would have been like from those. I have brass primed and ready to load and everything is still set up to load these so I'll load them up again and make a hard metal note to test in a wheel gun.  Hopefully another long range session with a chronograph is around the corner as I have many test loads waiting to be fired through the 77/357 and GP100 combination.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A preface to my.38 Short Colt idea

Being a re-loader and a tinkerer one tends to look at how to get more versatility out of the tools he has at his disposal (even if there is no REAL need). Now there is nothing wrong with light .38 special loads, a light load of bullseye and a just about any bullet will give you surprisingly good performance out of a revolver or a carbine (bolt action, lever or single shot). But as we all know you have to experiment and see what else is out there and when looking at light loads for the .38 special the .38 short colt came up. It turns out shooters who get their .38/357 wheel guns cut for moon clips will use the .38 short colt in them as they load into the gun easier. Not something we're really worried about here, this is mostly just a educational venture but still fun. The .38 short colt is a case roughly the same length as the 9mm Luger, the similarities are very close except for the rim.  Most shooters are familiar with being able to shoot 38 special in a .357 magnum but few are familiar with the .38 short colt and .38 long colt being compatible in these guns as well, and for good reason. Both are obsolete except in specialized guns and the competitions those guns are used in.  My interest in the cartridge lies strictly with its physical characteristics. My thinking is the short stubby case takes up less room than a standard .38 special case (in a stock pouch like what I've put on my 77/357). I can also at a glance discern a light load from a magnum load. This is all theory right now of course, but it looks good on paper. I can carry one of my 5 round rotary magazines loaded with the .38 short colt loads and one with .357 magnum hot to trot loads. This could be the best of both worlds but only testing will tell. 

Its pretty obvious which magazine holds the light load and which holds the heavy one.

I decided to make 50 .38 Short colt cases out of .38 special brass just to try as a comparison to .38 special loads.  I'll post pictures of how I made the brass later but the use of a mini chop saw, a trimmer and a deburr tool is paramount to stress free case modifications. I've done the tubing cutter thing in the past and it was a lot of 4 letter and $1 words.
.38 Short Colt loads are not that easy to come by however it seems several people recommend using reduced 9mm cast loads as starting points so that is what I decided to go with. As the case has roughly the same dimensions  same  Going to my Lyman cast bullet book I decided to try a load of  3.5gr of Red dot under a ~92gr round nose. Round nose bullets are not what I would use "out in the wild" as they tend to over penetrate and not disperse there energy effectively. I plan on using a 105gr Lee semi wad cutter after I get a sampling of bullets cast, sized and lubed. For now I'll just play around with the 92gr round nose and see what kind of results I get with it. 

.38 Short colt brass and loaded cartridges made from .38 Special cases

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lee loader : Reloading for economy and fun!

It seems as though every reloading company has some "eternal" product that carries on and on and sets the standard in its niche. As far as "intro to reloading" goes the Lee Loader fills that niche with honors. Its been made to reload just about any major shoulder fired cartridge case and hull you can imagine (short of 50bmg...but even then I'm sure there is somebody who has copied the Lee loader for the 50BMG). Here is a good place to start as a primer on lee loaders

The Lee loader is hands down the most economic way to load ammunition for your rifle, pistol or shotgun. Even if you are a veteran reloader you can not help not giving due credit to this overly simple and effective tool.

The Appeal- Say you purchase a rifle like the Savage Axis in 30/06....you don't shoot but maybe 80 rounds a year to hunt and keep in good shooting form with. You really dislike the $1 a shot and then some for the ammo you are seeing on the shelves. While looking at the reloading kits at one of the "worlds largest outfitter stores" you see this little "lee loader -30/06" you do some research and for under $30 you can be set up to load yourself ammo instead of what may have been a lot more for press, dies and all offending accessories.

A few caveats with this line of thinking, you also will need a good powder scale, primers, bullets and a hard rubber mallet DO NOT USE your claw hammer. Other than that you are set to go.

Pro tip- Even if you are loading on a STURDY bench you may still want to use a large steel block under your set up to absorb the pounding so items on said bench don't migrate off bench.

Today we'll be loading some .38 special since I've been shooting that caliber a lot lately. The pistol dies are a little different than the rifle dies but they all perform the same basic tasks and the same theory is behind both sets.

First we grab our decapping rod and decapping chamber and with our RUBBER mallet we drive the primer out. Decap all your cases first.

Pro tip- If you are handy and you have the material cutting a notch in your steel block (or dense wood?) so that the spent primer falls into a tray or other bin of sometype will speed up the process some. Having spent primers floating all around is not good.

Step 1 remove primer

Rubber mallet- Yes its an import but it goes with our affordability theme here....also my older plastic mallet kind of gave up the ghost.

Don't even think about using this!!!!!

Step 2: hammer case flush with die

Grab your priming base/bullet seater combination tool.

Place primer in hole

Set die with case facing down on top of priming tool

Lightly tap, get a feel for this step and go slow, check primer about halfway through to ensure its seated straight and true

A coffee mug is great for pouring powder into to scoop from, After your done loading pour powder back into original container. Never leave powder out when you are not loading ammo.

Now here is one area I get a little fussy with when it comes to the included scoop supplied with the lee loader. This scoop is the .5cc scoop, it is supposed to throw a 4.6gr charge of unique....ok well thats all fine and good but when I weighed the charge it did throw it came out to 3.9gr everysingle time. Still a safe minimum as per some load books however this is a good reason to have a powder scale on hand so you know what charge the scoop throws. DON'T TRUST WHAT THEY SAY IT SHOULD THROW.

PRO TIP- If you have a good powder measure you can take a fired case like a 9mm and wrap some medium weight wire arounds its base, now you can use this as a scoop and file the case shorter until you get the charge you are wanting, A coat of nail polish on the outside with a sharpie label can let you know what scoop is for what powder and exact charge it was made to throw. Cheap and effective!

In goes our powder
 Next we take our combination tool and adjust the bullet seater stem a little at a time and trial fit until we get the bullet seated to where we want it.
Adjusting the seater requires loosening the lock ring and running down the stem in the pistol set.
 We may or may not flare the case mouth at this point, I forgot to take a picture of that process but no biggie, next the bullet is dropped in and seater is situated on top.
Whack-a-mole that bullet into place (gently)

Pro tip- Again if you are handy I would highly suggest making a sort of tool rack for the rods, flare tool and bases. putting each tool back after each use and in the order you use them would make loading even faster. Also a scrap block of wood drilled with a spade bit can make a marvelous loading block on the cheap! And its good for the environment!?

And presto- We loaded a round of .38 special

If we wish to crimp our bullet we simply flip the die over to the side we poured the powder through and placing the bullet nose down tap lightly with our mallet a few times to get the desired crimp. It does not take much so check after a few taps and you will get the feel for it quickly.

About a round a minute is doable

I have shown how a single round of pistol ammunition can be loaded very cheaply, quickly and with minimal tools. I have a very extensive reloading set up with lots of fancy equipment however loading with the lee loader is as simple as you can get and very enjoyable. If a man was stuck in a cabin for awhile I would much rather load my ammo with one of these than the nicest progressive press out there. Its fun, its simple and relatively safe. The lee loader is perhaps all you might ever need to satisfy your ammunition consumption. OR it could be a great way to find out of reloading is something you want to dive deeper into. These kits are hands down great for the beginner who is learning on their own and has the time to do it right and read up on it.

The link below goes to the instructions for the Lee Loader in its pistol form.


PAK-TOOL -A point of interest in reloading equipment

I came across this little hand press reloading tool called the "PAK-TOOL"  in an estate that was being liquidate. This tool is supposed to be a compact tool for the cabin, range bench or where ever you need a compact tool to load your ammo. It seems to have been offered in quite a few calibers. I won't be reloading any ammo with this tool but I thought I would post it here as a point of interest, not something you see very often and surely something I have never come across until now. The tool uses proprietary dies, shell holders and rods to perform all the steps necessary.  ALL the parts are proprietary, nothing translates over to other dies, presses or what have you. This particular tool was set up for 45-70 but also included shell holders for a few other calibers of which the dies were not present. Its an interesting idea but it didn't seem to take off. 

It looks more complicated than it actually is and the press itself is very well thought out.


The instructions make it seem more complicated than it actually is as well.....the inventor could have benefited from a Kaizen mentor. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winchester 94 1968 Bent carrier : or : Winchester breaks A John Browning design....

There are few things I hate more than a well designed gun, economized to the point the basic function of said firearm is jeopardized. From my readings there was a span in the mid-late 60's that Winchester not only changed the steel of their receivers to take some butt ugly looking bluing but they also used stamped carriers that more often than not BENT with little use of the gun. Luckily I was able to secure a machined carrier to replace in my '68 vintage 94 and we're back up and running. The 94 is such a simple design believe it or not and has a lot of features one may not realize existed, such as a built in firing pin safety in which when the lever is actuated it actually cams the firing pin back away from the breech face. John Browning designed it so you know its a solid design...well that and its over 110 years old now so for it to survive this long it had to be....  My particular gun is in 30-30 as most of these rifles were. Its a "beater" of sorts. The 40 year old firing pin also needs replaced so we are waiting on that part still....however looking at how simple the thing is and cost of replacements I may just make one really quick on the lathe with the use of a ball turning turret to ensure the correct taper is achieved.

A quick 15 minutes turned my 94 into a puzzle of parts.

Bent stamped carrier on top, machined carrier on bottom, NOTE bottom carrier is shorter, this made me think it was the wrong carrier but it is not!

Function proven with the use of snap caps, range test next....after the firing pin is replaced of course.